Internships for Psychology Students

lol-psycat - clinical psycat

Psychology is a popular field to study and it can lead students down a variety of career paths. For some, studying psychology simply lays the foundation for work outside of the human services realm. For others, pursuing a career the human/social services field is the goal. For those pursuing a career in psychology, graduate school is a necessity, not an option.

However, relevant experience as an undergrad is still important. It can help you decide if a career in psychology is right for you. It can help support your application for graduate study. And of course, it’s an important resume-builder that sets the stage for your career.

The trouble is that finding an “internship” in psychology or counseling while an undergraduate student is a challenge. For the most part, “internships” in the field are for grad students only. So what are you to do?

  • Don’t get hung up on titles! The word “internship” has taken on far too much importance. “Internship” is just another way of saying “career-related experience.” If you look at it from that perspective, the types of opportunities you discover will grow. In fact, many small non-profit organizations offer what many would consider to be internships; they just don’t call them by that name. If you disregard opportunities categorized as “volunteer,” you are eliminating a lot of potentially relevant experiences.
  • Look at community service opportunities. More specifically, seek out long-term volunteer placements. Long-term experiences tend to span a full semester or summer, just like an “internship.” Organizations like the UWW Center for Students with Disabilities and the Whitewater area schools offer longer volunteer assignments. It’s nice for them to have continuity in their volunteers, and it’s great for someone looking for a more in-depth experience. You can find opportunities through the UWW Volunteer Clearinghouse.
  • Don’t completely rule out internship postings. Organizations like Youth Services of Southern Wisconsin, Community Action, and the Boys & Girls Club often post internships on Hawk Jobs. Some organizations post information on their own websites, so see our growing list of field-specific resources for Nonprofits and Human & Social Services.
  • Conduct some employer sourcing, network, or create your own “internship.” Identify organizations you’d like to work with, through basic research or through your network, and reach out directly to discuss the potential of setting up an internship or volunteer assignment.

While your “internship” might be called something different or be found in a slightly different way, the purpose remains the same. Find an opportunity to perform work related to the work you hope to do as a future professional.

Photo by Kelly Garbato

No Summer Internship Yet? It Might Not Be Too Late…

Summer break is about a month away. Have you secured a summer internship yet? While time is quickly running out, there are still opportunities out there. To make sure you gain that crucial career-related experience this summer, it is important to be proactive and flexible.

Last week, we saw 16 new internship opportunities added to HawkQuest. This included internships in conservation, marketing, IT, sales, auditing, and finance. The opportunities are located throughout Wisconsin – including Madison, Waukesha, Mukwonago, and Watertown – and in Minnesota.

A terrific opportunity was added to the Hawk Internship Program. The Wisconsin Innovation Service Center (WISC) on the UW-Whitewater campus is looking to fill 8-10 positions for Product & Market Research interns. The Product & Market Research position provides excellent real-world experience working with business clients in Wisconsin and across the United States. Plus, WISC will moving to Hyland Hall – wouldn’t it be exciting to work in the new building?!

What if none of the aforementioned internships fit your interests? What if you aren’t finding any advertised opportunities in your field? This is where being proactive comes in. Do some research, starting with the city or town where you plan on being for the summer, and discover the businesses and organizations in that community. One resource for doing this is the local Chamber of Commerce. The University Library also supports useful resources, such as LexisNexis Academic. Using LexisNexis, you can build a company list and find company information. Figure out which employers could provide you with the experience you want, then develop a plan for approaching them. Some of the most interesting internships I’ve heard about from students have been self-designed opportunities. It is entirely possible to create your own internship, but it takes careful planning, a fair amount of research, and a measure of assertion. If you think this is a strategy you’d like to employ, schedule an appointment with me.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that summer internships have been slightly down this year, some areas being hit harder than others, and that’s not a huge surprise. Some universities are reporting declines in summer internships in accounting and advertising, while others are reporting positive news for fields such as marketing, human services, and government. People are also talking about a boom in opportunities with small businesses. Small businesses want and need the help, and interns are an affordable means of getting that help. Make sure some small businesses make it into your outreach list.

Next week, I’ll write about what you can do if an “internship” doesn’t happen. Internships aren’t the only way to gain career-related work experience, and it’s a good idea to be flexible in regards to the types of opportunities you’ll consider.